Tips for Anyone Feeling ‘Reentry Anxiety,' Especially Seniors

Experts say "reentry anxiety" is an uneasiness about returning to normal life during the pandemic.

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Some seniors are feeling anxious about getting back out into the world, especially people who’ve been the most vulnerable to illness and social isolation. Shelly Lavinsky Sulit, 65, was one of them, despite being vaccinated.

“Because I took COVID seriously, to be honest, there was some anxiety,” Sulit said. “I just stopped masking in most places, but I always carry a mask with me.”

On top of that, Sulit’s husband Robert -- a World War II Navy veteran -- passed away six months ago from dementia. She was his caregiver and turned to a local non-profit, Jewish Family Service for help when she found herself overwhelmed with anxiety over engaging in regular activities.

JFS hosts virtual programs for seniors to help with socialization.

“And that was a saving grace for me because I was used to being out and about and my husband was in the last year of his life and the dementia was getting worse and it was just good to have some support,” Sulit said.

Aging specialist Colleen Jensen Cook said it’s normal to feel anxious about reopening during the pandemic.

“We have lived through a very, very difficult year,” Cook said. “There’s been a lot of trauma. There’s been a lot of grief. Our world is just different now.”

Cook gave us some tips to minimize “reentry anxiety,” which include being kind to yourself, celebrate the small steps and replenish yourself by doing activities you enjoy.

Tips to minimize reentry anxiety include:

  • Knowing that feeling anxiety is normal
  • Practice self-care and pay attention to your body’s needs
  • Reach out for support
  • Give yourself and others grace
  • Take healthy risks
  • Do activities you enjoy

“Be proud of yourself, even if you got out and you went to the post office and you came back, that is a small step to really celebrate,” Cook said. “Maybe have a journal that you are keeping track of the different things that you’re doing, and you can look back weeks from now and say, ‘Wow, that was concerning to me then, but here weeks later I did this today.’"

Sulit said practicing gratitude helped her turn the corner toward getting back to normal.

“And it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t sad some of the time or depressed or anxious, but I just learned to look at what was going right also in addition to what was going wrong," she said.

Jewish Family Service also points out the benefits of socialization and taking what they call “healthy risks” like seeing a loved one in person, but at a distance, if you’re still uncomfortable.

JFS has several socialization programs for seniors. Visit, or call 858-637-3210 for more information.

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